Funny how even the the most noble of actions can have devastating consequences. 

The $1.75 billion sale of 187,000 acres of U.S. Sugar’s land to the State of Florida to restore the Everglades may seem wonderful to some environmentalists. But to the 6,500 residents of Clewiston, Florida, news of the sale did not bring cheers.

That’s because U.S. Sugar is a critical component of Clewiston’s economy.  The company employs 1700 people, and makes up about 25% of the tax base. 

Approximately 300 farmers, residents and business owners recently packed Clewiston’s John Boy Auditorium for an emergency meeting, during which officials voted to hire an attorney and begin an economic impact study. 

I have mixed feelings about this deal. We do need to preserve the Everglades. But must we put an end to towns like Clewiston to do so? Farmers are sometimes made out to be “the enemy” of the environment, but I don’t agree with that. If anything, they’re more connected to the environment than the rest of us.

I also have a problem with the “surprise announcement” Governor Crist made about the sale. In Florida, we’re supposed to have government in the sunshine. How was it possible for the State to conduct negotiations with U.S. Sugar–especially negotiations for an amount like $1.75 billion of taxpayer dollars–with so much secrecy?

Some of the folks in Clewiston feel like they’ve been thrown under the bus.  Understandably, I’d say.